Put health matters beyond EU’s reach

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WITH the news that several European Union countries are set to block the Scottish Parliament’s plan to set a minimum price per unit for alcohol, reality will surely now dawn on First Minister Alex Salmond that the present ­European Union is completely out of control on a range of major ­issues.

If Mr Salmond manages to persuade the huge number of Scottish doubters that independence should be the future for our country, he would be wise to follow Prime Minister David Cameron in claiming back many essential EU powers before we lose all control to the EU in its drive to forge a “United States of Europe”.

Scotland and the UK have two successful parliaments which are both capable of driving forward success without interference from Europe on issue after issue. 

Iain J McConnell


East Lothian

Prime Minister David Cameron has said that it was his decision to delay the introduction of plain packaging for ­tobacco products.

He maintains we need to wait for evidence of the effect of such legislation from the Australian “experiment”. He has effectively kicked the decision into the long grass. He and his public health advisers know full well that it will be years before there is any statistically clear Australian (or Irish) evidence of reduced uptake of smoking among younger people – the group that provides the tobacco companies with their new customers as their long-standing users die off early.

It will be well past the next UK election so he and his party and its advisers need not worry about Ukip or too many barnacles slowing down their electoral progress.

We will continue to see published the softer and more subjective evidence from user attitude surveys that are indicators of a positive effect of plain packaging. The one published this week in BMJ Open is from Australia by staff at Cancer Council Victoria (CCV). Let me state an interest: I was involved with CCV when I worked in Melbourne. The team is respected for excellent, methodologically sound research on tobacco and health and for being a very effective thorn in the flesh of the tobacco industry – and its recent findings are no surprise.

I hazard that the least surprised are the tobacco companies and those they pay for public relations advice – and Mr Cameron himself. After all, he once worked as a director of corporate affairs for a large communications company in that short part of his life when he worked in the real world with normal people. He must know that, if packaging has no effect, the companies would not spend so much on devising ever more attractive boxing and inordinate amounts on legal challenges (that also cost national governments).

The coalition wants us to believe its policy decisions are driven by science and evidence. They are not: this is a political decision that demonstrates lack of leadership and it is patronising to the public to suggest otherwise. 

(DR) Alan Rodger